Demon? Disorder? Or none of the above? A survey of the attitudes and experiences of evangelical Christians with mental distress

Journal article


Lloyd, C. and Robert M. Waller 2019. Demon? Disorder? Or none of the above? A survey of the attitudes and experiences of evangelical Christians with mental distress. Mental Health, Religion & Culture. Vol 23 (Issue 8), pp. 679-690. https://doi.org/10.1080/13674676.2019.1675148
AuthorsLloyd, C. and Robert M. Waller
Abstract

Evangelical Christians consistently endorse spiritual aetiologies for mental distress, which include the belief that mental distress can be treated solely through spiritual intervention (prayer, fasting and deliverance). The present survey examined the beliefs and experiences of 446 self-identified evangelical Christians considering growing public awareness of mental distress. The paper focuses on the extent to which church teaching represents mental distress as caused by “spiritual” factors, and how this affects beliefs about “secular” treatments and resulting interactions within communities of faith. Thirty-one percent of respondents reported experiencing teaching which exclusively spiritualised their mental distress. However, 94% endorsed secular interventions (psychological therapy) as effective. Additionally, 73% of respondents endorsed non-spiritual causal attributions (biological/neurological or traumatic/lived experiences) for mental distress. Overall, 56% indicated positive engagement within their faith communities. That respondents endorsed positive interactions within their churches, despite the presence of spiritualised teaching, highlights the limitations of anti-spiritualisation narratives. We argue for an approach to mental distress that is culturally sensitive and psychologically framed, and yet responds to individual and collective meaning-making regarding the interface between spiritual and psychological dimensions.

KeywordsMental distress; Christianity; evangelical; aetiology; beliefs
Year2019
JournalMental Health, Religion & Culture
Journal citationVol 23 (Issue 8), pp. 679-690
PublisherTaylor & Francis
ISSN1469-9737
1367-4676
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1080/13674676.2019.1675148
Web address (URL)https://doi.org/10.1080/13674676.2019.1675148
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online23 Jan 2020
13 Sep 2020
Publication process dates
Accepted28 Sep 2019
Deposited15 Jun 2023
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